OBERMILLER, Evgenij Evgen’evič

OBERMILLER, Evgenij Evgen’evič. Petergof (Petrodvorec) 29.10.1901 — Leningrad 3.6.1935. Russian Indologist and Tibetan Scholar. Dr. 1935. Worked in Petrograd/Leningrad. Son of an official. He lost early his parents and lived with his aunts, who taught him music and Western languages. Matriculated from classical gymnasium in 1918, he started studies at Physical-Mathematical Faculty of Petrograd University, but soon had to interrupt because of financial difficulties and get a job. After four years work in different offices returned to the University in 1922, but now at Political Faculty, studying Buddhology under Ščerbatskoj. After graduating in 1925 started immediately research work, publishing the first results as early as 1927. From 1928 Assistant (sotrudnik) at Institut buddijskoj kul’tury (AN SSR), but had to retire because of illness in 1930, although he formally belonged to the staff of Oriental Institute until his death. Dr. literaturovedenija 1935. Five times fieldwork in Burjatia. Since his student times Obermiller had been frequently ill and now his situation was rapidly deteriorating. He never lost his enthusiasm in research: When he lost the use of his right hand he learnt to use the left and when he lost the capability of moving he concentrated on work in his home in Leningrad. His last visit to Burjatia he made as an invalid, with the help of bearers. His abilities failed further and he became bound to bed, but his intellect remained clear. His aunt, Elizaveta Karlovna Švede, was his nurse and his secretary (as he could no longer even write), and this way he dictated his most important works.

Obermiller’s competence of Sanskrit and Tibetan was excellent and during his short scholarly life he became one of the best specialists of Tibetan literature and Mahāyāna Buddhism. The Soviet Academy of Sciences accepted him as correspondent member in 1934 and conferred a doctorate in 1935. He died just before the persecution of Buddhist scholars began.

Publications: At least 120 publications, e.g.

Index verborum Sanskrit–Tibetan and Tibetan–Sanskrit in Dharmakīrti, Nyāya­bindu and Dharmottara, Nyāyabinduṭīkā. Bibl. Buddh. 24-25. 1927-28.

Edited in Tibetan with Ščerbatskoj: Abhisamayālaṅkāra Prajñāpāramitā Upadeśa­śāstra. 1. 12+112 p. Bibl. Buddh. 23. Lg. 1929; Sphuṭārtha Abhidharmakośa­vyākhyā, the work of Yaśomitra. Second Kośa­sthāna. 96 p. Bibl. Buddh. 21. Lg. 1931.

Translated: Bu-ston’s History of Buddhism. 1-2. Materialien zur Kunde des Buddhismus 18-19. Heidelberg 1931-32 (with corrections in JRAS 1935, 299-306).

– “The Sublime Science of the Great Vehicle of Salvation … of Ārya Maitreya with a commentary by Āryāsaṅga”, AO 9, 1931, 81-306; “The Doctrine of Prajñā-pāramitā as exposed in the Abhisamayālaṁkāra of Maitreya”, AO 11, 1933, 1-133 & 334-354; “Nirvāṇa according to the Tibetan tradition”, IHQ 10, 1934, 211-257; articles in IHQ 5 & 9; JGIS 1934; etc.

Analysis of the Abhisamayālaṅkāra. 1-2. 275 p. L. 1933-36 & 3. 1943 (all as Calc. Oriental Series 27).

Review od Winternitz, A History of Indian Literature. 2, OLZ 38, 1935, 546-559.

Edited in Sanskrit and Tibetan: Prajñāpāramitāratnaguṇasaṁcayagāthā. Bibl. Buddh. 29. 1937.

Introduction and facsimile edition: Kamalašila: Bhavanakrama (Traktat o sozercanii). 67 p. Moscow 1963.

Prajñāpāramitā in Tibetan Buddhism. 17+174 p. Delhi 1988.

Sources: Life in his 1963 book, 7-11, with photo; Bongard-Levin & Vigasin 1984, 153f. with another photo; Miliband 1977, 1995; Roerich, JGIS 12, 1945, 93-95; *Stcherbatsky, IHQ 12, 1936, 380-382 (with bibliography); Russian Vikipedija briefly with photo; photo also in Vigasin 2008, 432.

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